Put a bit of James Brown on the stereo, because this is one funky beer.
The Bruery, founded a few years ago in Southern California by Patrick Rue, isn’t brewing beers you’re likely to find analogues to at your local pub. Rue lists sweet potato pie, Thai food, and the intense aroma of freshly picked lavender as a few of the “primary influences” in crafting The Bruery’s beers. All of the brews coming from the Placentia-based brewery are “100% bottle conditioned, unfiltered, and unpasteurized”, and totally unconventional.
Sour ales, strong ales and strange ingredients have probably turned off more than a few unadventurous beer drinkers, but beers fermented with Brettanomyces or brewed with cinnamon, maple syrup and yams are perfect if you’re looking to expand your palate. Such beers are particularly fun for us beer reviewers – after all, how often do you get to use terms like “horse blanket” and “leather” and “funky cheese” when you’re writing about a beer?
I got to try a few beers from the Bruery for the first time a few months ago, when Novare Res owner Eric Michaud generously broke out a few bottles to split with me and my pal Luke (of Blog About Beer fame). I was wicked impressed by the beer he shared, and vowed to track down a bottle or two from The Bruery when I had the chance. When I went to PAX East this March, I spied a bottle of the Saison Rue in Boston and snapped it up.
The Saison Rue is a Belgian-style beer, a saison brewed with rye and fermented with the lovely Brettanomyces. Here’s how the brewery describes the beer;
Saison Rue is an unfiltered, bottle conditioned, Belgian/French-style farmhouse ale. This is a beer of subtlety and complexity, with malted rye, spicy, fruity yeast notes, biscuit-like malt backbone, and a slight citrus hop character. With age, this beer will dry out and will become more complex with rustic notes of leather and earth from the contribution of a wild yeast strain. Being a Saison, Saison Rue is ambiguous unto itself as it is a different beer when fresh and when aged. We hope you enjoy it in all of its incarnations.
Usually the first thing I talk about when I’m reviewing a beer is how it looks, but I really have to start with the smell on this baby. Saison Rue brings the funk like Westbound Records. As soon as you pop the cap off this beer, you’re hit with earthy, horsey, barnyard-y funkiness. It’s hard to exactly describe the smell of a brett beer to the uninitiated, since to me it just smells like brett. Mostly, it’s just a very earthy, kind of woodsy, slightly sour smell – the comparison of saisons to the smell of a farm is right on the nose (HA! Puns!), but makes them sound a bit less appealing than they actually smell. The Rue also has some citrus notes in the nose and a bit of rye spiciness.
On to the look of the Saison Rue. In the glass, the beer is deep orange and more than a little hazy. Bless The Bruery and their bottle-conditioned beers – the yeast makes for an attractive haze, and the meringue head is thick enough to last for a good while.
I know I use the word complex a lot when I’m describing beers I like, but the Saison Rue definitely deserves the descriptor. The beer starts out sweet, with some citrus and apple flavors playing off the sweet bread malt taste. This morphs into a spicier flavor as the rye asserts itself, and tarter green apple flavors follow. The beer takes a right turn from spicy to sour, with some serious funk (think leather or hay) that leads into a dry finish. These flavors, however disparate, all blend together really well – there isn’t one flavor strong enough to overpower the others, although the intense rye does come close to being a bit too much. Despite the dryness of the finish, the mouthfeel is luxuriously creamy and smooth.
Yum! Really drinkable, especially for a beer that clocks in just shy of 9% ABV. Definitely another beer that challenges the idea of just what beer should taste like – especially if you’re used to lighter fare. If you’ve got a chance, pick up two bottles of the Saison Rue; one to drink ASAP, and one to age so the brett can do it’s thing.